First Thoughts

… lots swimming around in my brain this morning… watched Derek Jarman’s The Garden last night… Senate Republicans blocked discussion on a pared down voting rights bill authored by Manchin who had claimed he could get ten Republicans to back it… that, since learning how to season and care for my cast iron pans, they have become my most used and loved pans in the kitchen… how well my Jelly Comb vertical mouse works and how all neck and shoulder pain in my mousing arm side has disappeared… that i will start the journals of Denton Welch this morning… that i had no alcohol last night and feel better this morning, though not as wonderful as the day on Block Island when i had no alcohol and drank sumac-aide, i was euphoric on that day, so i wonder, is sumac a tonic?…

… so, back to the top, The Garden, a strange and wonderful film… about repression of gays, especially by the church… about relentlessly invasive modern society… about capitalism’s relentless presence… the imagery, oh the imagery, so inspiring… so damn good… i had only an inkling of what the movie would be like from Modern Nature… knew that Tilda Swinton was in it… didn’t realize that Jarman himself appears in numerous places… the film concocted as a set of dreams… the landscapes of Dungeness spectacularly bleak and desert like, and in the shadow of a nuclear power plant… did he buy the cottage because it would make a fantastic filming location?…

… as for voting rights… ahhh the filibuster, whither the filibuster?… we are up against a wall, the moment when the country decides whether it is white, male patriarchal, or a multiarchy?… the numbers are on the side of the multiarchy, the power balance presently skewed in favor of patriarchy… what will be the outcome?… disaster, from my point of view, if the filibuster is not amended for arguably the most important historical moment of my longish life…

… cast iron pans, what a difference proper seasoning and maintenance makes!… i had always tried to take good care of them, but i finally learned how… past the basic seasoning routine (a thin application of grape seed oil, one hour in a 500 degree oven, repeat several times), learning to rinse with hot water, even soak briefly, has been transformative… then drying, heating up and application of a thin coat of oil before storing… that’s it… my pans are mostly non-stick and when they do stick, cleanup is easy… long live cast iron pans!… and they do, properly cared for…

… another piece of equipment that is working well is my Jelly Comb vertical mouse… i have been through so many input devices… this is the one that works and i love it!…

… the journals of Denton Welch… read the short bio on the cover flaps… somewhat sad but amazing figure… a bad accident when he was 20 partially paralyzed him and left him in continuous until his death 13 years later… reputedly a prolific and brilliant writer… he trended homosexual…

… about no alcohol… always feel better the next day… when will i be able to profit from that knowledge?…

… must see if i can buy sumac commercially… and i can… powdered for use in cooking, as tea, loose or in bags… the latter is expensive… i am going to check the health food stores for the tea, will order the ground version from Spice House…

… the horn of a freight train in the distance… Fiona exhales a deep breath while sleeping on the bed near by…

As If On Cue… Tilda Swinton

… i finished reading Modern Nature this morning and turned to my news feeds… after scanning a few articles:

  • about the removal of a Thomas Jefferson statue in NYC
  • about the pending Supreme Court stay request on the Texas abortion ban legislation
  • about the need to upgrade our defense system sighting a new Hypersonic missile China tested recently

… i turn to my arts feed and first up is an article on Tilda Swinton who talks about “the Life-Altering Potential of Great Cinema… with the possible exception of “HB,” TS makes more appearances in Modern Nature than anyone else… a loyal friend and collaborator of Derek Jarman… TS has three new films out… i think i may need to go on a TS binge…

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman, The End

… i am on the last number of pages… DJ’s health is deteriorating…

… he is starting to cancel work… a short film with Annie Lenox… his physical condition getting in the way of concentration… i find myself wishing i had successful creative friends of the Lenox caliber…

Beth Chatto comes to see DJ’s garden… she’s a celebrity i never heard of… looked her up on Wikipedia… well known plantswoman, garden designer, author… Christopher Lloyd is with BC, is it that Christopher Lloyd?… he makes more of a deal about Beth Chatto…

… migraines and blindness… back to the hospital… Berlioz’s death march from Symphony Fantastique starts playing in my head… he’s frustrated, but not that sad…

Full dusty orange moon glimmers over the sea, climbs over the house.

A midnight hedgehog rustles through the flower bed. I switch the light on in the kitchen and the spiders scatter. Over beyond the Long Pits bush fires flare. A house burns down in Lydd.1

… the book finishes with one entry in September of 1990… i find his Wikipedia entry which tells me he died 19 February 1994… three more years of the descent… i hope he was able to be happy some of the time… i hope he was able to enjoy his garden…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 310 [return]

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

Heat and cold hurt. A hot bath burns, an orgasm overwhelms with pain.1

… such frankness about ordinary experiences…

… the death toll mounts…

… DJ continuing to struggle with health…

… memories of a pair of aunts with austere lives…

… planning for Edward II… it keeps him alive…

… i have an urge to look at the photography page on my blog… my photographs and photographs i have linked because i found them interesting… it’s a nice array of images… much more interesting than sets i have attempted to curate… is this a message to let my interests take me where they will?… that will be the most interesting?…

… whole paragraphs full of flower/plant sightings…

… i relish the descriptions of puttering about… H and i, retired, semi-retired… we putter about but less productively it seems to me… H in front of TV all day… me doing this and that…

… DJ talks about gathering and pickling samphire… i search for information on that and come up with samphire.org.uk… it’s a thing…

… i wonder if i could grow it?…

Salicornia, i learn, is the latin(?) name for the genus that includes a number of species many of which are known by the common name samphire… they grow in salt marshes and are eaten where they grow… there are some varieties that are at least partially toxic, so one needs to know what Salicarnia they are dealing with… it is, apparently, a delicacy in eastern Canada…

… i am almost finished with the book… another morning or two an then on to Denton Welch…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 286 [return]

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… DJ is recovering from his illness… i am amazed that he has so many friends stopping by, bringing him flowers, taking care of him, Tilda Swinton almost a daily presence… i look up Tilda Swinton’s Wikipedia page and surprisingly little mention is made of Derek Jarman, despite having starred in a number of his films… two of which are talked about a great deal in Modern Nature…

… i discover that TS is a kind of actress i like a great deal, not mainstream Hollywood, taking roles in independent films… an actress with courage and a career… Michele Williams is another one…

… got lost down the rabbit hole of looking for my ex… she seems to live in Manhattan… not much more to know… she also wen’t by Salmon-Kriegh somewhere along the line… i don’t think it was while we were married… strange… relatively little else to know… seems she may have remarried…

… Joris Ivens is mentioned again, film on the wind… it’s available to watch on Youtube

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… DJ being told about the abuse he suffered from his father when a toddler… echoes of D… DJ’s abuse was both physical and mental… mine only mental… yes… i can say that now… i was abused by D much of my life…

… DJ says we can’t write of the past accurately… any attempt to do so is self portraiture… i suppose that is true… one views the past through the lens that accommodates it to the present in the desired ways… often as justification for our infirmities, insecurities…

… DJ and his sister appear to have had a poor relationship with their dad… he outlived their mother… it’s not clear the relationship was much better with the mother… my nightmare would have been D outliving M…

… day after day of illness, then diagnosis, TB of the stomach… there is such a thing?… medicine… feeling better… optimism…

… i close the book on a Sunday in April… nearing the end, but time to move on…

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… DJ hospitalized with mysterious illness, not confirmed to be HIV, but he and we suspect that it is, though i think he hopes it is something exotic he picked up in Poland… exotic and treatable… fevers, sweats, no appetite… i am reminded years ago of Fleet… of working in an office where we were asked if it would be a concern if there were a co-worker with AIDS… i said no… what i knew of the disease at that point was that it was transmitted through sexual intercourse or blood transfusion, otherwise, not easy to catch…

… DJ’s descriptions of hospital life are deadpan and sometimes funny… he writes more than when not in the hospital… possibly because he has lots of time on his hands when symptoms are not washing through him… he describes himself as having the classic symptoms of HIV…

… i get to the place where the doctors say it isn’t HIV related… but nobody knows what it is… of course, i know how the story ends… he dies of HIV related causes eventually… his was in the early rounds of dealing with the virus, before they developed treatments that managed it… people live long and normal lives while carrying it now… there is not, to my knowledge, a cure, just management…

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… the first thing i read:

Jubilee was a great success: ‘It was a tragedy that socialism and freedom were incompatible’ drew cheers and the ’50 million copies of Paranoia Paradise sold in Moscow’ had the cinema in the aisles.1

… i look up Paranoia Paradise County”) and discover it is a song first released by Wayne (now Jayne) County… and was part of the soundtrack of Jubilee

… it is so interesting to slowly make your way through a book, diving deeper (made easy by the fab internet)… i begin to realize that a world of context can be invoked by the simplest of references… i suppose i should not be surprised by this, having just finished reading a lot of haiku and having several books of haiku lined up in my reading list… it is interesting that Wayne became Jayne… it fits the story being told by the book…

… as i finish February 1990, DJ has returned to his London flat from the Polish film festival and the editing of Garden is coming to conclusion…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 246 [return]

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… we seem to be in the throws of the memoir writing decades… the memoir format is much more literary, much more composed… memoirists conjure up memories of things that happened long ago, which allows them to create a well rendered and, most of the time, more flattering, if quasi-fictional, account of their past… moreover, it seems to me that everyone has decided they live in interesting times and should tell the world about it…

… as i open the book to read, the sound of garbage trucks in the DMV parking lot which reminds me the garbage needs to be put out… back in the studio, i am re-reading a section which mentions the journals of Denton Welch which describes his writing as “crystalline”… i have looked him up on Wikipedia where he is described as “an English writer and painter, admired for his vivid prose and precise descriptions”… i purchase a previously owned copy of his Journals… Maurice Cranston’s description of Welch is quoted in Wikipedia:

He had no trust. This in turn connects with his greatest limitation as an artist. He built too many barricades and enclosed the range of his understanding. If he could have seen the wider human comedy with his miraculously penetrating eye, and described the world as he described his own, he would surely have been among the greater writers in our language. As it is he will survive as a minor genius, one of very few from an uncreative age.1

… DJ wishes he could write in as crystalline a way as Welch…

… names dropped, Annie Lennox, Keith Herring… the later reported as dead, the former ringing up to discuss whether to do an AID’s charity gig…

… a trip to Poland for a film festival featuring his films… the descriptions of a country in which everything is state owned… mercantile competition doesn’t seem to exist…

… then this brief paragraph:

Meetings like this, with an exchange of ideas, have quite disappeared in London. Music there is so loud no-one can hear a conversation any longer.2

… this causes me to pause, quote, it occurs to me that loud music in social settings was/is a plot to keep young people from exchanging any meaningful ideas… in this way they can’t coordinate their misery into rebellion and the capitalist machine can profit off of them… i wonder how much in our world has been constructed to keep the young from coming together and rebelling… just keep them dancing, drunk, drugged and by the time they come out the other end they have lost their will to fight…

… i am finding it interesting to read a journal, which is written as one goes… i expect it has been tidied up for publication, but the Derek Jarman i perceive in the pages would not have been one to do that much tidying… mostly editing aimed at making it more readable… by contrast, in my time, people don’t publish journals… we seem to be in the throws of the memoir writing decades… the memoir format is much more literary, much more composed… memoirists conjure up memories of things that happened long ago, which allows them to create a well rendered and, most of the time, more flattering, if quasi-fictional, account of their past… moreover, it seems to me that everyone has decided they live in interesting times and should tell the world about it… i have this thought that i shouldn’t be too critical here, as i am writing and posting things that are of little interest to anyone but me, and are hardly consequential… i am just another human making their way in the world, wishing i was consequential, writing and publishing like they i am consequential, when, in fact, i know i am not… but it’s wrong to put it that way… i am not broadly consequential… i have been consequential to a small circle of lives…


  1. Cranston, Maurice, quoted in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denton_Welch [return]
  2. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p247 [return]

Patti Smith & Jefferson Hack

Michelangelo’s David, Florence, Photography by Patti Smith

… characters of the late fifties, sixties and seventies cropping up with regularity… i suppose Modern Nature, by Derek Jarman is part of the reason… DJ mentioned Robert Mapplethorpe in my readings of a few days ago… Patti Smith on another magazine ties into that thread, Mapplethorpe and Smith were good buds back in the day… i look the article over because it contains Smith’s photography… i have a book of her photographs… my general reaction is that they are good photographs, but they don’t take my breath away… this article opens with Never Still, a poem being published for the first time by Smith…

… it seems appropriate to the milieu in which my readings and discoveries are unfolding… Derek Jarman would have connected to the physique of David i suspect… who doesn’t, but most of us don’t in a queer way, he would have… perhaps stating the obvious here, but i am thinking about the statue and it’s frank sexuality… do i recall that Michelangelo is thought (known?) to have been gay?… i do an internet search and the answer seems to be maybe… would it be possible to make such a sculpture without being in love with the subject?… it reminds me of MK, designer, artist, mentor… when he died it was discovered that he had a bunch of crocheted penises hidden away in his apartment…

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… interesting portrayal of calamities… a huge storm… the nearby nuclear power station seeming to blow up, but only shutting down in an urgent way due to lightning strikes… an uncle on a boat to Calcutta in 1915 on which influenza is dropping the passengers like flies… the world is chaos much of the time… i wonder how the present times would be described by DJ or by some DJ in the process of becoming…

… DJ talks about what it meant to be open about his sexual preferences and HIV+ status… he felt in a privileged position to be open, figuring if his film career stalled he could make paintings and sell them… he seems to have done generally well for himself despite being something of a radical filmmaker…

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… writing about his school days… about the Kennedy assassination… about not being political, not going on marches… an interesting comment about assassination as a political change tool… they believing that assassinations were a relic from the past…

… assassination was not part of modern life, seemed aberrant, out of date; it struck down 19th century Czars and Emperors — not the bright young president of a new era.1

… too frequently i have the thought that Biden or Harris will be gunned down… the level of violence producing passion presently stoked in the country will explode again… how and where is the question…

… i stop to search the availability of The Garden and find it is available on Amazon Prime… i want to watch it… i think H might not enjoy it, maybe i won’t either, but the filming of it is a thread running throughout Modern Nature so i feel i should…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, PP 195-6 [return]

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… i keep thinking about gay promiscuity, the cruising scene… DJ talks of cruising in Hempstead Heath… i’ve been to London… my first wife’s family lived near the Heath and i would walk there… had no idea it was a gay cruising park… a big park so possibly not at the end my in-laws lived near…

… was this the largest part of gay culture or was it the most sensational part?…

… DJ seems to have had a committed relationship of sorts… still, he cruised often… what does he look for?… what is the attraction of giving and receiving orgasms to and from strangers?… sex for the sake of sex… is there a thrill attached?… risky behavior is thrilling behavior?… i try to puzzle it out…

… Alice Cooper enters the narrative… memories of a time he had been asked to help stage the band?… the focus is on mountains of Budweiser beer and a bed where men and women have sex for everyone to see/watch if they care… it is not so unlike the gay cruising behavior… i don’t find it as off putting…

… discussing the movie Last Exit to Brooklyn

How, after 20 years of feminist lobbying, do you view the act of the girl who invites gang rape as a triumphal revenge?1

… this strikes me because, as much progress as one thinks gets made in the USA, there are such large swaths of the public that make no progress at all that it seems pointless… the ability of the country to absorb all this progress without changing deep down is mind boggling… we are fighting culture wars that have been raging for hundreds of years… every now and again a period of seemingly substantial progress only to be hammered back… the country is like the blob, able to ingest anything without changing it’s essential nature… D was an example of that virulent essential nature… and it is not just men refusing to change… women seem to get some kind of perverse satisfaction in setting themselves back decades… i have this looming fear that M will find a companion and re-yoke themselves to companion stupidity that limits them… i am enjoying the sense of their blossoming in their newfound freedom… H’s M seems to have done this on a certain level…

… talking about growing up Suburban…

A suburban child, I was inexperienced and insecure, my upbringing designed to protect me from life. It was not that my parents neglected me — they were enthusiastic, though cautious. But the mores of middle-class life meant that no problems — unless financial — were ever discussed. They had no language for the emotions.2

… this rings so true to my upbringing and in particular to being the child of a parent who had little in common with me or i them…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 188. [return]
  2. Ibid, p 192. [return]

Modern Nature, Derek Jarman

… the descriptions of promiscuous gay culture continue to put me off… rather than a culture of same sex love and commitment it is a culture of profligate sex in dingy underground clubs, dark alleys, any available bathroom… i check myself on whether this is a prejudice, it might be, the same images of heterosexual abandon don’t put me off as much, though i am less attracted to them than one on one love and sex together… i have tried sex for sex for its own sake and it is not fulfilling, doesn’t reach the profound experience that sex in the context of love can be…

… DJ talking about his art show opening… there has been a fair amount of journal space devoted to the making of the artwork he put in the show… it explores gay sexuality… American women seem to be most accepting… i guess we send our progressives overseas… or perhaps only the progressives would go to see such a show… maybe the times were somehow more accepting… less intense culture wars?… then, suddenly, this paragraph…

Intense work has obliterated the garden at Dungeness from my mind. I can live in a hotel room with a change of blue overalls, toothpaste, a razor, and this diary.1

… as i record this quote, i think about the “what a little moonlight can do” photographs i am making… that they have me a little excited and seem a good new direction for the dark matter work…

… the garden at Prospect Cottage strikes me as a creative attempt of great hope but continuous struggle… DJ talks about the plants getting burned by the salt spray… more and more i think the plight of the beach roses on the island might be due to the tropical storm that passed directly over the island a couple of months ago… H was out here with M, i was back in Beacon caring for dogs and doing work on the house… strange, the two major storms that came through the Northeast, H was in them, i was not…

… i learn about Anatomy of Melancholy, by Burton… still considered a classic… available on Amazon… i wish to purchase, need to make a note that i am interested…

… dog restlessness upstairs… hoping it settles down, too early to take them out in my opinion…

… the restlessness continues… i go to release them, only Fiona comes out… i leash her up, take her out… we go round and round the yard, she does nothing, the crescent moon and lights from the house make navigation by sight possible… the clouds lit up with a bright white glow, i think about getting my camera, but don’t, we come back in and Chas starts whining… “fuck you Chas” i say… now he wants to come down… i leash him up and take both dogs out again… Chas pees, Fiona still nothing… both expect a treat when we return… i don’t give it to them… it is too early… i don’t like this as a habit which it will become if i reward them with a treat…

Joris Ivens is mentioned, a Dutch documentary filmmaker i have never heard of… i struggle with making a note that i will remember to go back to as i want to know more about Joris Ivens… the easy way is to key word label it with “to watch, read, get”… on the iPhone, with keyboard enabled, this requires dumping out of the keyboard connection to bring up the tagging screen… it would be easier at home on the desktop…

… about the sixties…

Time has softened the decade — made it seem less complicated. The sixties opened the floodgates of consumption; and as more — much more, became available we lost a sense of the New. By the eighties the excitement of the New had disappeared.2

… i read about Pilip Core who wrote on photography, and the arts… i look him up… an American who lived most of his life in England… i add him to the list to get, read, watch…

… Tom of Finland is mentioned… i know about this because of my photography readings…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 168 [return]
  2. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 176. [return]

Derek Jarman, Modern Nature

… this:

Quid sit futurum cras fuge querere et quem fors dierum cinque dabit lucro appone, nec dulcis amores…

Try not to guess what lies in the future, but as fortune deals days enter them into your life’s book as windfalls.1

… sounds a bit zen to me…

… DJ describes a work, party and social life that is/was definitely not Zen… a whirlwind of parties and fucking… and then, back to his garden at the cottage near the nuclear power plant… the power plant seems a symbol of something sinister, disease perhaps?…

… as i read about the garden and the seasons and the discoveries on walks through the countryside, i think, rose hips, where are the rose hips on the beach roses… they seem to have shriveled on the branch… was hoping to try and make jam again… last time i burned the sugar, took ages to scrub the pan clean…


  1. Jarman, Derek, Modern Nature, p 106 [return]